OK it's winter, now what? Line/fly choices? [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: OK it's winter, now what? Line/fly choices?

11-30-2001, 09:20 PM
Well, even here on the Rogue it's winter/ or close enough to count.

Poll time.

Line and fly choices for the season.

Low water:

High water:

Coloured water:


12-01-2001, 02:13 PM
Want a line choice? The best all arouund line choice is 12# maxima married up to a driftrod and baitcaster!!! Don't you know that you can't catch winterrun steelhead on a bugrod son?!?!?!?


Hehehe. I heard that from an old timer about 18 years ago on the Hoh River. I tied on a polar shrimp onto a siinktip line with my old Fenwick 9wt glass rod (which I still have) and proceeded to hook a few steelhead and land two right next to him. Mind you he landed a few himself. But all h could do is shake his head and smile.

Everyone has their own style and sppeciial fliis depending on river/conditions/and tiem of year. I can give you a rough take on what I use. But I'm no expert, but I've had success with what use.

Low clear conditions. Dark small profile flies on a floating line. Uusualy a longer leader say 8+ feet. Either floating or subsurface flies.

Sliightyl stained. Few feet visibility. I use a floating or slow sink fly liine Uusually a shorter leader (under 8'). Ii use a subsurface/sinking fliie. Normaly I'll use a medium shade fly. Shades of orange, pruple, red, etc.

Well stained, limited visibility. I use slow to ast siink tip flyline Shorter leader (3-5'). I usualy will use unweighted or sliightyl weighted flies (I feel tehsinktip lines wil help pull it the fly down so I want it to float a bit while the ling sinks. I use brighter profile flies in brighter colors. Pinks, whitews, oranges, etc.

Now, these are not rules. I've caught fish in all sorts of conditions with different flies. Ii'm sure others who excluusievely fly fish can give you alot more iinsight. These are just my rules that I follow when I flyfish.

Tight lines

12-01-2001, 02:49 PM
Although I am almost exclusively floater in summer run situations (tips in big water or if I want to fish thru with a bunny rat before moving on)... I almost never fish the floater inthe winter. I mean others do, and I would like to, but the hybrid lines are so easy to cast and mend and they do catch fish - even on the bugrod :)

I don't use weighted flies so the floating line in winter is only cutting the changes even more than they already are, so I exchange short and long type II, III, IV tips onto a cut-back floating long belly style line whether it be single hand or two-hander.

To me it's not so much a line choice for water color / condition but more a matter of tip choice for the best presentation into where I believe the fish are. That could mean a type II 12ft front taper off an 8wt shooting head or a 15' hunk of type 6 Rio. If the fly swims thru at the right depth and speed and holds in the strike zone, the rest is about visibility of the fly and the mood of the fish.

In case I am not making sense, I once fished through David Powell and the mouth of the Raging before going to work in Issaquah. The water was high and muddy, about a foot of vis and that tan sandy color instead of the nice green glacier silt.

Up in the DP run I had to use a 15ft type 6 to hold the fly in the zone on the far side of a current seam using a big three color winter popsicle. I got a slow pull and thought it may be a chum when it swam. I hit it hard and all hell broke loose as a bright winter chromer broke the surface and got off.

My faith was renewed so I stopped at the boat launch and worked the soft inside edges along the mouth of the Raging with a short type II and the same fly. Anything more would have snagged in the slow deep current. Got another pull, this time landed a nice bright hatchery hen, released it and got to work with a big smile on my face. Just about this time of year too!

Conclusion: flexible line systems are best this time of year, match the density to achieve the presentation you need to hook up in each hole worth switching the tip for. Switch early and often.

Willie Gunn
12-01-2001, 03:08 PM

Being an ignorant scot can you please explain the "type system" to me. It is not used here. What is the quickest sinking type 11 2? or type 6. What is the sink speed in either inches / sec or if you like meters/ minute.


My daughter and I will reply for Atlantic Salmon if you want, we don't do Steelheads.

12-01-2001, 07:31 PM
"Don't do Steelheads???" Doc, you really are on the 'wrong side of the Pond.' Rumor has it that your daughter out fishes you 2 to 1 (I know about the rumor as I started it). What's her preference(s)?

Juro: how about you jumping in on the sinking tips question; you're the master on this subject.

12-01-2001, 08:32 PM
Willie -

I would be fascinated to hear about the line choices in your Atlantic Salmon waters!

Originally posted by Willie Gunn

Being an ignorant scot can you please explain the "type system" to me. It is not used here. What is the quickest sinking type 11 2? or type 6. What is the sink speed in either inches / sec or if you like meters/ minute.


My daughter and I will reply for Atlantic Salmon if you want, we don't do Steelheads.

12-01-2001, 08:51 PM
Fred -

I am really far off from any kind of master on the topic. I think I do have a pretty good loop system but my ability to determine a good tip for a given line system is completely on a trial and error basis. I bought a lot of shooting heads and cut them to make 12'/18' or 13'/17' or 15'/15' depending on what I learned from previous experiments. When a tip casts well, I note that and put the tip in a forward compartment in my tip wallet.

I do wrap with a colored thread before applying the aquaseal so I have colors to use to differentiate between say an 8wt tip and a 9wt tip in the same density (line color). Even still there is no science, it's purely guesswork and I stick with what works.

As I was learning how to Spey cast it was funny that a tip that worked great one day would not work for me another! That's because my SPey casting stroke hadn't become consistent. Now I hate to admit that the long lapses between sessions keep me fom progressing the way I would have if I had not left the PNW.

The first experiment I made was with a FWF 8wt single hand rod cut at 15' back from the level tip. Then I cut a type IV S/A 9wt shooting head at 12' from the tip, leaving 18' from the cut to the back taper. Dennis Worley at Kaufmann's talked me into it. I was grateful. I didn't like the loops they built so designed my own (per the article). The total package here is:

- 15' dry tip
- 12' font taper T IV
- 18' back tape T IV

in one wallet. I got by well with that until I needed a type III, same cut. Then I found a bargain bin 8wt STS and added it to the wallet, making 7 options to use from one wallet.

The 8wt casts great on a 9wt DTF Spey. The lighter tip made a difference and like Tyler says the finer diam gets down very well.

I adopted the Mike Kinney head design and that allowed me to cast sections of 550 grain DWE - but most of the time the 8wt 18' type III is the best line to throw for my stroke on that system. The rods are (1) 1050-4 sage and (2) 8/9 15' 4pc Loomis IMX.

For the 7130-4 I just use the Rio WC with tips. I wouldn't mind a little bit more punch in that blank so I could use DTF lines easier. I am anxious to try the new rods.

With a little more attention to what's what I might have been able to make better assumptions on tip matching but since I have reached a few working combinations for the four Spey rods I fish my experimentation has been limited lately and I am not much of an experimenter over the last few years.

Long story short, thanks for the kind words but you'd be best off consulting with Dana Sturn, Tyler, Dylan, DoubleSpey, et. al. at this point.

12-01-2001, 11:53 PM
I'm no expert but I'll weigh in. Regarding the questions on tips...It's my understanding that Scientific Anglers does their tips with measurements of Type II, III, IV, and V. The Type V sinks very fast. Rio and Cortland use measurements of Type 3 and Type 6. They also offer a clear intermediate sink. I'm not sure what sinks faster....the Type V SA or the Type 6 Rio/Cortland.

In talking with Rajeff who reps Aireflow he said that they are offering a Type 7 tip that sinks faster than Rio's tips because they are very dense AND MUCH THINNER. Something about how they construct their lines allows them to be real thin and still have the grains.

I think the above info is correct. Anybody want to correct me?


12-02-2001, 12:23 AM
Well ok everyone else is chiming in on this one so I might just as well too.

I don't wanna spend all my time making heads and cutting lines and all that stuff. I find no pleasure in such things. heck i don't even like typing flies , my boxes prove that..

For winter fishing i pretty much only fish general practitioners. Only 3/0's only in black orange and purple.. It's my opinion that with Steelhead pattern matters very little so i fish with stuff thats easy to tie and that I don't mind losing.

I fish a windcutter with the 150 grain 15 foot heads. the type 3 and the type 6.. I am foing to get a 200 grain 24 foot rio big boy. that will cover every true fly fishing senario. I have a 15 foot chunk of 550 grain deep water express but i never use it. If you need that much weight the water you are in isn't fly water in my opinion.

My motto Keep it simple!!!

My summer fishing is done 100% dry line with a double taper
like i said SIMPLE

12-02-2001, 01:08 AM
I know what you mean about the DT Floating line for summer...so much more control to keep that indicator on a drag free drift. ;)

Has anyone tried those Polyleaders by Airflo?? They look pretty slick and pretty much leaders with built in sinking heads or vice-versa. I really do not know how to describe them. Anyways they come in a wide range of sink rates.

I ordered the Climax version of them and I am waiting for Cortland to stop back ordering them so I can give them a try.

Any experiences??...they don't look as though they would sink as fast as a standard but maybe they do.


12-02-2001, 02:38 AM
I think Juro hit it when he said one's tips are the key for cold water fishing. Just look where this topic has gone.

And I also agree with Rob in keeping it simple. All of my tips are 15 feet in length with one exception: I use a 24ft type 6 tip in the highest water. Also agree with his fly comment -except about GPs being easy to tie!!!

River and presentation conditions being equal, the two variables which control the depth that a tip of a given line size will reach are it's density (sink rate or type) and its length. By using all the same length of tips, I eliminate the need to consider the length variable and only need to determine which color tip (type) to use. On those rare times when my 15' type 6 doesn't get down like I want, I put on the 24' tip. When the 24' tip doesn't get down to my satisfaction -I go home.

The rivers I fish usually are best fished with a sink tip. The water just doesn't get that warm here in SE Alaska. I'll use 'em all throughout the season including intermediate, and types II, III, IV and VI. And sometimes the 24 foot tip though it mostly only comes out this time of year.

Sometimes I will fish a full floater when the opportunity presents itself. When I do this I'll use a sparse #4 or #6 comet (sometimes with small brass eyes) to get down. These cast pretty well and seem to be at about my limit for enjoyment with heavy flies. These conditions are generally low water in May when water temps have warmed somewhat.

With respect to poly leaders: I like 'em! I have a set and am pleased with how they cast and fish. The fastest sinker (Airflow calls it extra super fast) really gets down. I loops 'em on in place of a head. I really don't consider them leaders at all -just mono-cored heads. I leave flies tied on them and can switch the whole set up really fast. I don't carry these with my regular 15' Rio and home made tips so that I can still use my single length tip method.

The lines I use almost exclusively for fishing tips are Mastery Salmon/Spey lines that are cut and looped 18ft from the tip. I use the 8/9 on my 7141 and 8150 and use the 10/11 on my 10150. I favor the DT for a full floater though do use a Wulff TT as well.

This thread reminds me of a thought I've often had regarding sinking lines/tips. I really wish AFTMA would create a standard for coating densities. It seems a SA type V is like a Rio or Cortland type VI. I have intermediates that sink faster than some type IIs in the same line weight. Standardization would go a looooooong way to simplifying this mess. It sure helped with flyline weights.


12-02-2001, 09:59 AM
Ryan, If your tired of waiting on Cortland and want to try the Poly sinking leaders Rajeff Sports has them (Airflo) in stock @ $9.95
1-866-347-4359. There is quite a lot of discussion of these leaders on Dana's Spey Pages board. Also Rajeff Sports are great to deal with.

Willie Gunn
12-02-2001, 10:32 AM
Fred, Juro
Techniques for fishing for Salmon.

Early Season
January and February. Start with a full sinking line the water temperature is usually less than 40 f. Big flies, 6" Collie Dog or more convential 2" Willie Gunn. Fished slow and deep. Water tends to rise during the day as snow melt pushes up the water levels.

March April as the temperature moves up switch to a intermediate line during the middle of the day switching back to full sinker at morning and evening or if the river is in spate. Flies tend to be a bit smaller 1.5" Willie Gunn or Tadpoles. Water temperature tends to vary between 40f to 45f. Conventional wisdom says that 42f is the critical temperature.

May Prime month on the Spey. switching between Intermediate lines and Floaters with sink tips. Fly sizes are down again 6, or even 8 if the weather is warmer. Doubles /trebles Ally Shrimp, Munroe Killer etc classic stuff. Water temperature can get over 50f time for a floater.

June July August . Floater and small flies for the Grilse runs most of the fishing morning and night dawn and dusk not very sociable for familly life. If water temperatures get to high flies can get very small 0.25" tubes size 12/ 14 when the water is low. Temperatures can get up to high 50f makes salmon stale.

September October. Water temperatures starting to fall again and floods more likely as the trees drink less water. Water level more important than temperature. Again back to bigger flies and Intermediates or even sunk lines. Back to 2", 1.5" Willie Gunn or at the other exteme size 10 Ally Shrimp or similar. Months to be on ones toes and check water temperatures and heights as the day progresses. The most experimental angler probably does best.

Nov Dec Total Boredem gardening etc.


12-02-2001, 03:35 PM
Rounding out a couple of my comments on this and other threads about RIO lines (not caring for the mid-spey at all). The one application that I've found that is very workable is cutting off the front taper on a 8-9 mid-spey, attaching a short (about 2 feet) of stiff 20# leader material and then a loop.

To the loop I attach the Airflow sinking leaders. Use both lenghts depending upon water debth. Combination is very much of a river sweeper. Only draw back is if you hange up the Airflo you can brake the sinking leader. I've had two of them do this to me.

In both cases the breakage occured very close to the end of the sinking leader so just nail-knoted a short head, tied on new leader material and went back at it.

12-03-2001, 12:41 AM
as usual I'm the odd (loco? :eek: ) man out because I fish coastal OR rivers that have holes, not runs. There are places where I could jump across if I could get enough of a running start through all the alder and salmonberry. I usually hang up the spey rod for the winter - usually - in favor of a 10' single hander, spey casted in and among the brush

Low water: DT floater, 13' leader, egg or nymph pattern to sighted fish. This can be a lot of fun.

High water, for holes: DT floater, 13' leader, egg pattern with split shot and indicator. Not as fun.

High water, in a few "runs" that I fish: cut and looped DT floater, with 15' type 3 or 6 tip, 4' leader, egg or articulated leech

The waters I fish tend to get hit pretty hard by drift anglers fishing corkies and yarn, so I try to cover a lot of water rather than chase previously spooked fish. At least fishing around gear anglers I don't get flack for nymphing, though I tend to move fast. In fact, I usually build up a pretty good sweat winter fishing, carrying around all those split shot, weighted flies, and sinking heads :D There is really just no casting or swinging room

12-03-2001, 02:38 AM
Okay, here's my .02. Seems like the actual line and sink-rate issues were pretty well covered in all the excellent replies above, so I will talk a little bit more about my high/low water philosophy of fishing (as it relates to lines) for winter steelhead. Like pescaphile, I generally fish the SA Mastery Spey floater cut back 18 feet and looped to tips. Being lazy, and sticking to the idea that the more time your fly's in the water, the more fish you catch, I generally try to avoid changing tips much, but change the depth I'm fishing with fly design and cast placement/mend. Go-to tips for the Skykomish for me are the Rio 15 foot, 165 grain tip in Type VI for the Mastery 10/11 on my 9140 and a 15 foot tip made of the sink-tip portion of an SA Type 5 sinktip, in 8 weight for the 7136. When necessary, I go to lighter versions of the same tips (135 grain Rio type VI for the 9140 and an the sinktip portion of an 8 weight, type IV SA line).

That said, here's how I usually approach the high/low water issue. In high water, contrary to "logic", I've had more success with a slower sinking tip or fly. It seems that when the water's up and dirty, the fish I find are usually holding close to the bank in soft water, so I fish a bulky, unweighted fly with a lot of water resistance, and sometimes go to a lighter tip to swim the fly just over the near-shore rocks. Conversely, if the water is low and clear, the fish tend to hold in the deeper, heavier water of main flows, so I feel I need to cut through the faster currents. As for flies, I tend to favor dark colors for either condition, and vary the size and density of the tie for the flows I will be fishing. Also, over the last few years, I have been gradually fishing smaller and smaller flies, and for whatever reason, they seem to catch more fish. It's suprising how well fish can see even in dirty water, and what started as a novelty (small flies) now seems to be an emerging pattern in my steelhead fishing. I know big flies work--the big 3/0 Partridges used to be my favorite hook--but I've been blown away by how well the little #4 and #2 "Crappie" flies work. Plus, the landing ratio goes way up. Yes, I fish bigger in dirty water and smaller in clear, but they're both about half the size of what I used to fish.
Hope this is of some use to someone out there. It seems like everyone has different theories about what works, and this is just mine. Good luck.


12-14-2001, 10:20 PM
How many of you folks use 24' heads with your WC's?? And when you do, do you remove the middle floating section?